Letters of Administration are Simply a Document that Gives You the Power to Act
The Probate Pro understands that there is much confusion as to the term Letters of Administration or Letters of Authority. After years of people calling me asking what the document means, I still wonder why it isn’t simply called an Order of Authority. I am confident that with that title, everyone would understand the meaning. Letters of Authority are a document that identifies who is serving as the Personal Representative and gives the Personal Representative the legal power to act on behalf of the probate estate.
Obtaining Letters of Administration
Probate refers to the court procedure by which a decedent’s estate gets administered after death. The Letters of Administration are issued following the commencement of probate estate and the appointment of a Personal Representative. A sample can be found here.
The Letters of Authority state the name of the decedent, the probate court name, the name and address of the Personal Representative, and the limitations of any of the Personal Representative’s powers. The Letters of Authority have a seal embossed by the probate court to indicate its authenticity.
The probate court charges a fee of $12 for each sealed Letters of Authority. It can be presented at banks, financial institutions, title companies, law enforcement, and at any place in which the Personal Representative may be required to show proof of their legal authority.
Letters of Authority will be issued by the probate court or register once the Personal Representative qualifies by filing an Acceptance of Appointment and a bond if bond is required. Michigan Court Rule 5.202(A) provides that Letters of Authority shall be issued after appointment and qualification of a fiduciary and unless ordered by the court, it will not have an expiration date. Michigan Court Rule 5.202(B) states that the probate court may restrict the powers of a Personal Representative conspicuously on the Letters of Authority. The probate court may modify or remove the restrictions on the Letters of Authority with or without a hearing.
Administration of the Estate
There are two types of decedent’s estate administration – Supervised and Unsupervised. In both types, the Personal Representative administers the estate from beginning to end. Unsupervised Administration does not require the Probate Court’s review or approval. But an interested person or the Personal Representative may request a Supervised administration at any point.
Upon appointment of Personal Representative and the issuance of Letters of Authority, the Personal Representative has a duty of undivided loyalty, impartiality, care and prudence to the heirs and to creditors. The Personal Representative’s failure to properly administer the estate, or a breach of any duty, can result in the court suspending the Personal Representative’s powers, removal as Personal Representative, and/or imposition of liability.
The Personal Representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate “as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate” and “except as otherwise specified or ordered in regard to a supervised personal representative, without adjudication, order or direction of the court.”